Besides having one of the strongest single player campaigns in a Grand Theft Auto game, let alone in the entirety of Rockstar’s catalogue, Grand theft Auto V’s claim to fame is undeniably how it handles its three main characters.
For the first time since Grand Theft Auto II, multiple playable characters were available throughout the story. This time, however, they could interact with each other in a dynamic way while acting as the key players in the world around them.
What resulted was perhaps the most personal story to ever grace a GTA. Michael, Trevor, and Franklin’s characters were forced to work together and pitted against one another for a dramatic story that neither fell into the apathy of Grand Theft Auto IV or the overly comedic Grand Theft Auto III. There was a genuine respect to the writing and that came alive in the three main characters.
Many games make the mistake of featuring multiple playable characters without justifying a reason in doing so. Sometimes this results in characters who are different purely on a cosmetic level or the best parts of gameplay divided between the cast. Grand Theft Auto V gets around that by allowing players to switch characters any time they feel while also giving the trio their own quirks and motivations that only conflict with one another.
The most diverse cast a Grand Theft Auto has had yet, Michael, Trevor, and Franklin are filled with subtle quirks that not only elevate GTA V’s high quality but also incentivize Rockstar into making sure GTA VI’s cast is half as good as V’s.
Just in case it wasn't obvious, there are SPOILERS AHEAD, if somehow you haven't played the game yet.
15 Franklin Wasn’t Always Going To Be Playable
It’s hard to imagine Grand Theft Auto V without any of its three main character, let alone Franklin. Granted, his arc has the least consequence to the overall story, but he plays a big role in framing the beginning and the ending of the game. A huge chunk of the opening is spent playing as and getting to know him, after all. There was a time, however, where Franklin wasn’t integral to the story.
Rockstar had apparently decided on multiple characters rather early on in development, but only in terms of Michael and Trevor. It makes a great deal of sense as the heart of the story ultimately revolves around the intricacies of their friendship, but having only two main characters would have made portraying their relationship objectively more difficult especially since Michael was already acting as the traditional GTA protagonist. Thus Franklin was born to serve as a mediator and act as a buffer between player perceptions of Michael and Trevor.
14 Michael is Slow
It’s very subtle, but Michael actually walks just a little bit slower than Franklin and Trevor. Given that Michael is not nearly as physically active as he used to be by the time Grand Theft Auto V’s main story begins, it makes a great deal of sense that he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the two more active main characters.
From a design standpoint, it’s actually rather well thought out, too. Yes, Michael is slower, but not to the point of frustrating players for the sake of some added realism. Michael also seems to run at the same speed as Franklin and Trevor and as most of the game is spent either driving or running, there’s really no harm done by making him slower.
Perhaps most impressively, Michael’s voice and motion capture actor, Ned Luke, actually put on 25 pounds to accurately replicate Michael’s out of shape stature. Talk about commitment.
13 Michael And Trevor Are The Only GTA Protagonists Who Can Die During Their Game
One of the added benefits of having multiple playable characters is that Grand Theft Auto V could now safely get away with challenging the franchise in new ways. Character death is not a foreign concept for GTA and Rockstar has killed off playable characters in the past, but never has a main playable character died in the Grand Theft Auto game they starred in: until V.
Depending on how the last mission plays out, either Michael or Trevor can actually die and be locked out of the postgame. More importantly, the other two playable characters will acknowledge the death and even potentially have their relationships damaged as a result.
There is, of course, a way to have all three characters survive the ending, but allowing two of three playable characters to die is a bold move that not only enhances the Grand Theft Auto experience, but also sets a great precedent that’ll surely make future installments all the more tense.
12 Franklin Has The Lowest Body Count Of The Three Main Characters
Grand Theft Auto characters kill people and main characters tend to kill the most people. Most of the murders tend to happen when just goofing around and trying to rack up stars, but each main character has a certain number of kills they have to go through with in the story and Grand Theft Auto V is no different as the three playable characters murder their way through Los Santos.
It comes as no surprise that Trevor has the highest body count in GTA V by far, topping off at a potential 32 story kills and having the most mandatory kills out of the three characters. Michael follows Trevor’s lead and ends up with 24 kills in the story, but Franklin doesn’t act on his trigger finger nearly as much, as he tops off at 18 kills with only 6 or 7 of them being mandatory depending on the ending chosen.
11 The Three Main Characters Have Different Sleep Schedules
Sleeping has historically been the best way to pass time in Grand Theft Auto. In most games, really. It makes sure players aren’t stuck waiting around for day or night to come, but GTA V plays around with sleep in an interesting and realistic way: each character has his own sleep schedule.
Michael sleeps the shortest of the trio, waking up after only six hours and often screaming or waving a gun around. It would make sense, given Michael’s mental state, that he wouldn’t be able to stomach sleeping too long due to nightmares or even PTSD.
Franklin sleeps a respectable eight hours and quite peacefully at that. Given how disconnected he is from Michael and Trevor’s life of crime and his general pursuit of money instead of murder, there’s little reason for Franklin to have trouble sleeping, especially considering his role as the everyman.
Trevor, on the other hand, sleeps for 12 hours and will on occasion wake up far from his actual bed. Given that he’s a meth addict and, well, Trevor, it makes a fair amount of sense.
10 Michael Was The First Main Character Rockstar Came Up With For GTA V
Grand Theft Auto V without Michael, Trevor, and Franklin is like The Legend of Zelda without Link or Metroid without Samus; it just doesn’t feel right. The trio’s presence is iconic not just to Grand Theft Auto, but this generation of gaming as a whole. Despite how perfectly the three fit into GTA V’s mold, there was a time where Michael was the only main character.
Truth be told, Michael is the most traditional of V’s main characters. He’s troubled but sympathetic, psychotic but relatable, and deadly serious while humorous. If GTA V had just featured Michael, it’s more than likely the game still would’ve been good and felt right at home in the series, but the charm and ambition that Trevor and Franklin brought it would have been missing.
Rockstar allegedly decided that Grand Theft Auto V should have multiple playable characters, but they did still develop Michael first and foremost and that does explain why his arc feels the most prominent and fleshed out despite sharing the bulk of the actual story with Trevor.
9 Trevor Can Goad Pedestrians Into Attacking Him
Pressing right on the control pad while playing as either Michael or Franklin will result in the two kindly greeting any pedestrians who happen to be passing by, but pressing right on the control pad as Trevor will yield slightly more aggressive results where he’ll taunt pedestrians in place of a friendly hello.
It’s quite novel, really. Most of the time, the only way to get stars is to attack passing strangers or steal a car but being able to get the police on your tail simply by flipping someone off and openly insulting them in public adds another element of reality to Grand Theft Auto’s ever growing universe.
What makes it all the better is that Trevor has unique taunts for just about every type of pedestrian. From gang members, to drug addicts, to police officers, and homeless people, no one is safe from the fury that is Trevor Philips.
8 Franklin Cares About Animals
It comes as no surprise that the one main character to have a pet and actively interact with it is the only one who reacts with remorse when killing an animal. Michael will respond sarcastically when killing or running over an animal, while Trevor will react with his typical dark humor, but Franklin will generally offer an apology and give a statement of regret.
Much like every other aspect of Grand Theft Auto V, this is something hard to pick up on as it’s completely possible to miss having to interact with Los Santos’ wildlife save for a few key moments. Franklin’s remorse humanizes him in a small way but it makes him more relatable and three dimensional. The same goes for Michael and Trevor. These three characters are their own distinctive individuals in both story and gameplay. Down to their smallest parts, Rockstar injects real personality into every one of their actions and reactions.
7 Michael’s Special Ability References Max Payne and Red Dead Redemption
With the addition of character specific special abilities, Grand Theft Auto’s gameplay got a new layer of depth. Shooting and driving now have an element of strategy as players need to manage their special meter gauge and use their abilities wisely. Special abilities aren’t a foreign concept for Rockstar, but they had been noticeably absent in Grand Theft Auto until V.
Michael’s special ability slows down time during shootouts allowing him to have more precise aim. Fans of Red Dead Redemption will notice that this isn’t too dissimilar to John Marston’s Dead Eye ability or the titular Max Payne’s Bullet Time. Some fans might find it disappointing that Rockstar is recycling past mechanics, but Michael’s slowdown feels appropriate given the context of his character.
More importantly, however, Michael’s slowdown is perhaps the most refined it’s ever been. Max Payne’s Bullet Time was often at ends with the simpler controls of the game and John Marston’s Dead Eye underwent too many changes, too frequently through the course of Red Dead Redemption to feel consistent, but Michael’s special ability is constant from start to finish and flows naturally in and out of combat.
6 Franklin’s Special Ability Is Lifted Right Out Of Midnight Club
Much like Michael, Franklin’s special ability is lifted right out of another Rockstar title. In this case, it’s the near decade retired Midnight Club series. Before Grand Theft Auto’s driving had been fully refined, most of Rockstar’s racing efforts went into Midnight Club. The series was well known for its fast paced racing and car customization.
One way to customize cars involved picking special abilities for your cars and while Grand Theft Auto V doesn’t allow car customization on that level, Franklin has inherited a special skill from Midnight Club to make driving the more smooth. Zone is effectively Dead Eye and Bullet Time in concept, but instead of slowing down combat driving speed slows down in its place.
Franklin can switch in and out of his Zone-like special ability to effortlessly weave through traffic and get an advantage in high-speed chases. Given that shootouts aren’t particularly difficult, his special ability stands out as easily the most useful and it’s all thanks to Midnight Club.
5 Trevor Is The Only GTA Protagonist To Kill The Main Character Of Another Game
Previous Grand Theft Auto protagonists have interacted before, with the most famous example being CJ and Claude’s interaction in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, but never before has one playable character killed another main character. Enter Trevor Phillips.
Trevor’s introductory mission in GTA V starts out with him having sex with one Ashley Butler, a rather important character in the GTA IV DLC: The Lost and Damned, before being confronted by her boyfriend, Johnny Klebitz.
Fans of the series will recognize Johnny as the main character of the DLC, but more important as a complete antithesis to Trevor. Before V, Johnny was perhaps the most brutal main character in the series’ canon, constantly betraying the cast of his game and being the most prone to rampage. To watch Trevor, a man obsessed with loyalty, brutalize, humiliate, and murder a former main character not only cements who Trevor is as a man, but scores just how dangerous and violent he can be.
4 Trevor Can Remove One Of His Default Tattoos
After its noticeable absence in Grand Theft Auto IV and its two DLCs, tattoos are finally back since its debut in San Andreas and brief return in Chinatown Wars. Unlike San Andreas, however, tattoos are purely cosmetic and offer no stat benefits but they’re still appreciated as they bring back a layer of cosmetic customization.
Trevor in particular starts the game heavily tattooed and will remain so given that the majority of his tattoos are permanent, unlike Michael and Franklin who can add and remove their’s at will, but Trevor does have one specific tattoo he can get rid of: “R.I.P. Michael.”
The relationship between Michael and Trevor drives most of the conflict in the story as Trevor feels deeply betrayed that Michael failed to notify him that he had been merely faking his death for years. Given that Trevor is no longer mourning Michael, he’s available to remove the tattoo at any point in the story. It’s a small, completely missable detail but it’s a nice one that shows off an aspect of Trevor’s character in a subtle way.
3 Franklin Almost Didn’t Survive The Third Ending
Most people familiar with Grand Theft Auto V know that Michael and Trevor can die depending on how the ending plays out. It didn’t take too long for the finale’s logistics to become common knowledge, especially when the third ending made sure everyone survived, but apparently Rockstar had considered adding some consequence to the third ending by killing off Franklin.
Slink Johnson, Lamar’s voice and motion capture actor, stated in an interview that Rockstar had planned on killing off Franklin at some stage of development and replacing him with Lamar for the post-game content. It gives a bit more sense to the context around the ending that keeps everyone alive, since the game advises that it’s the most dangerous choice of the three, but having Franklin die would rob the game of its best ending and cement a harsher atmosphere that GTA V had done a relatively good job at avoiding up to that point.
2 Franklin Might Be a Pious Man
Religion isn’t exactly a fresh concept for Rockstar. Many of their games have their religious and spiritual references, but playable characters typically don’t have the opportunity to dwell on or show off their religious knowledge. Franklin is unique in that sense since he shows off his Christian background a fair amount of times throughout the course of Grand Theft Auto V and his promotional artwork does hint at a Christian upbringing.
Franklin recognizes a biblical passage Michael mentions in passing early on in the game, and Franklin can get a tattoo of a quote from the Book of Corinthians which says: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Since tattoos are personalized around the character, it’s only fair to assume that the verse resonates with Franklin personally. Promotional art also shows him with a tattoo of praying hands on his neck and while the tattoo doesn’t make it into the game, the Christian undertones remain.
1 Michael Is Tony Soprano In All But Name
If you’ve never seen The Sopranos, go watch the entire series right now and then immediately play Grand Theft Auto V because you are going to appreciate Michael’s character in an all new light. While Michael is definitely his own character with his own arc and personality, a great chunk of his personality traits are admittedly lifted from Tony Soprano, the main character of The Sopranos.
Michael and Tony both go to therapy despite neither believing it’ll do them much good, both are huge movie buffs, both suffer from violent mood swings, have shaky relationships with their wives and children, are intentionally portrayed as hypocrites, and even share a similar pattern of speech.
Though Tony and Michael’s stories are leagues apart, it is rather nice and creative of Rockstar to implement a Tony-like character into one of their games and develop him independent of The Sopranos. Does it take away some of Michael’s originality? Perhaps, but it also makes his character all the more dissectible.